Sunroom, 140 Maple

The sunroom follows the path of the sun across the southern side of the house. Many windows look out to the neighbors’ and allow the those to see an occluded view into the home, at least the part that the family wanted others to see. Three of the walls contain many windows that provide seemingly innocent apertures. The fourth wall has a solid core door to close off the rest of the house from the sunroom and its access to the exterior.

From the front, the family and visitors access the house via six stairs leading up to a simple windowed door with a glass storm door that provides a layer of sound and thermal insulation to remove the family from the exterior. The single glazed windows provide plenty of light, but they are unable to shield from the cold present throughout much of the year. Window screens shield the interior from the horseflies and mosquitos in the summer months and trap the errant insects that find their way into the house–yearning to return to the exterior, buzzing and clinging to the screens–millimeters from freedom.

The low sloped roof caps the room, like a tidy haircut on this space– a clean finish to something that is more complicated than appearances. Joists support the roof and sheathing, below the roof surface. These reach out from the face of the original structure, stretching to break beyond the footprint that had not changed for years. The roof is built up of rolled roofing, patched with tar, layer upon layer. The nearly level plane of the roof could allow an exterior patio for the second floor, but such an extravagance would not fit the neighborhood.

Inside, the floors are vinyl tile that attempt to give an image of warmth but are cool and plastic to the touch. They provide enough durability to withstand the conditions both without and within the house, as this room is a transitional space from the often muddy exterior, and it is a controlled extension into the open from the interior. The tapping report of shoed feet and the thumping of the bare feet reveal the space’s occupants to those on the interior of the main home.

Below the room, the perimeter wall is composed of prefabricated blocks that lift the space up, to the level of the first floor of the main structure. Within these blocks, a fill of earth is hidden, likely to never be seen until the destruction of the house. The foundation and earth discouraged any other souls to secret away in our house, and if they somehow did, the entities would be killed, poisoned and never discussed.

Once the smells of babies, cheaply perfumed diapers, souring milk, rice cereal, and spit up wafted here, but now the moribund smell of dust lingers in the space that is spotted with sunshine. The space was an escape from the interior of the main structure–a way to experience the exterior, at least visually in the uncomfortable and sometimes inhospitable months in the darker seasons.

The space allows the family to watch what occurs on the neighboring properties without the appearance of being nosey. Our family tried to keep the appearance of calm normalcy, and this may not have been the case, but we could spy the breaks and cracks in other houses from this point. It was important to seem as though everything was going well with the family, and we would not highlight or complain about any issues within–only good news and well-adjusted people could leave the walls of the house.

From this room, my stepmother could enjoy a morning bloody Mary or tequila sunrise, removed from the noise and commotion of the boys, no longer needing the amenities of the room as babies. Two to three drinks were a good start, and they could continue throughout the day, if things became difficult. However, the later drinks beverages were likely in other spaces in the house, as she and the rest of us awaited the return of my father from work.

With the introduction of the deck to the west, accessible from the den, the sunroom became a nearly dead space in the summer, and it would get too hot in the high season. Instead, the space became a storage space that held the kids’ outdoor play toys and the occasional blanket or sleeping bag at night, when we wanted to look at the stars from the interior or watch the moths gather, trying to find their way to the light of the interior.


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